Tesla Motors furious with New York Times

The electric-car maker defends its vehicle after a scathing newspaper report hurt the company's stock and credibility.

By Bruce Kennedy Feb 15, 2013 9:23AM

The war of words between Tesla Motors (TSLA) and The New York Times is heating up.

Earlier this month, Times reporter John Broder wrote a scathing article about his test drive of a Tesla Model S electric sedan (prices on the high performance model start at $87,400, after a federal tax credit) from suburban Washington, D.C., to Connecticut -- a drive that he says was punctuated by long stops at roadside charging stations, concerns that the car's battery was losing power in low temperatures and an eventual tow truck rescue.

Tesla shares fell 4% after the article was published, and now the electric-car maker is pushing back.

Billionaire Elon Musk, Tesla's CEO and the man behind the PayPal and SpaceX ventures, blogged his response Wednesday questioning Broder's report and accusing him of being hostile to the concept of electric cars.

"When the facts didn't suit his opinion, he simply changed the facts," Musk wrote about Broder. "Our request of The New York Times is simple and fair: Please investigate this article and determine the truth."Credit: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images
Caption: The Tesla Model S Signature is shown during a media preview day at the 2012 North American International Auto Show

Now Broder has fired back, defending his account of the road trip. The Times' public editor says the paper is investigating the controversy.

There could be a lot of red faces if Broder's report is found to be accurate. In 2010, the federal government lent Tesla Motors $465 million as part of a government effort to help develop clean energy, reduce U.S. dependence on foreign oil and advance vehicle technologies. The Washington Post's Brad Plumer, who reports on energy and environmental issues, believes the controversy could hurt Tesla's potential customer base.

"Tesla’s whole strategy depends on lots of people buying electric cars and using the fast-charging stations often -- that will allow the company to recoup its investments," Plumer wrote Thursday. "A negative review in a paper like The New York Times, whose well-heeled readers are part of Tesla’s target demographic, hurts that strategy."

Some industry analysts believe the Times' article is just a temporary setback for Tesla.

Earlier this week, MercuryNews.com quoted a report by Elaine Kwei of Jefferies & Co., who still considers Tesla a buy.

"After digging into the background behind the article," Kwei wrote, "our conclusion is that operator error likely played a primary role, due to improper charging protocol."

And there may be something to what Kwei said. CNN Money reporter Peter Valdes-Dapena did his own test drive of the Tesla S Model from Washington, D.C. all the way to Boston -- making the trip in one day and in warmer temperature than The Times' Broder.


And he made it without any major problems, declaring on Friday that the Model S is "a pretty amazing mix of smooth and silent performance along with brain-squishing acceleration."

So who is right: Tesla or The Times? Stay tuned.

More on moneyNOW

Feb 15, 2013 11:59AM

I think a better question is:


Why does the federal government (huge debt) lend $465 million to a BILLIONAIRE to start a company? The company then goes on to make cars, that EVEN AFTER the government subsidy -are too expensive for any regular Joe to buy?


Our country is broke people, and subsidizing billionaires to start company's, then subsidizing the consumer of the product of those companies is stupid. Does Joe six pack realize he is giving tax credits (HIS TAX MONEY) to someone that wants to buy an $80,000 car!

If Mr. Musk with his billions of dollars doesn't believe in the concept enough to fund it himself -why the hell should we the taxpayers?!!!! 

Feb 15, 2013 11:33AM
It seems that the Broder's report on the test drive is what is related to most electric cars currently. these problems  show that electric cars are not at the top reliability rate yet, and that it is too soon in my opinion to buy this kind of cars involving expensive investment against the saving, and creating new inconveniences to the new owner(charging, battery consistency at different temps) anyway a $87400 car is only in the reach of fewer people for who money is not an issue.
Feb 15, 2013 2:20PM
Airbus is dropping these batteries.  Big Brother has no clue when it comes to business.  The government should stop subsidizing and just get out of the way.  There loans are political payoffs and should be prosecuted.  Libs would be going nuts if a president with (R) after his name were doing this.
Feb 15, 2013 1:31PM
There have been verified reports of Tesla's becoming "dead" from users on blogs as well.  Apparently, unless you charge these cars just right - you're risking getting stuck like the reporter did.  Now, I'm not saying the cars are bad.  But, you'd think the right way to use them would be more intuitive.  People are going to be wary of a car that bite you in the **** if you make simple mistakes.
Feb 15, 2013 4:21PM

Not a very cost effective car but that's not the point.  time2share said  "...hands down the most Cost Effective and coolest car in a long time.  Well, "coolest car" is subjective so I'll pretend he's right on that point (I thought the Tesla Roadster was even more cool).  Mazda has the new SkyActiv Diesel coming out for a little less than $25,000 well equiped that gets 56MPG.  Now, even at $4.50 per gallon,  $87,400 (Tesla cost) - $25,000 (Mazda cost) = $62,400 / $4.50 = 13,866 gallons of diesel fuel.  13,866 * 56MPG = 776,533 miles. Let's be more conservative - maybe you use your lead foot... 13,866 Gallons * 40 MPG = 554,640 Miles.  554,640 Miles /  20,000 Miles per year = 27.7 years.


So, the Tesla pays for itself in just under 28 years.... Not so much the "most Cost Effective" car around now, is it?


(Notice I assumed that the diesel would last 554,640 miles (possible) AND the Tesla's batteries would last 28 years (not a bloody chance)



Feb 15, 2013 12:53PM

One of the advantages to borrowing money from Obama....Nobody can bad-mouth your product.

Really, I'm surprised Broder just didn't disappear off the face of the Earth, never to be seen or heard from again.

Feb 15, 2013 2:28PM
How about the simple FACT that more electric cars have burst into flames than Pintos did in the '80's and no one is mentioning this as a life threatening danger like they did when a far small % of the whole manufactured did to the Ford?

Tesla will go the way of the Delorean, the Bricklin and Solyndra ............... when the tax subsides and guaranteed loans dry up, so will those pitiful few jobs that our money bought, the most prolific losing gambler (with others money) ever is our president!

Feb 15, 2013 4:33PM
Unless some miraculous technolgy comes along battery operated cars will never work.  If the government wants to make a smart investment they need to invest in the conversion of cars to to natural gas.  It's already been invented!  Guess that's just to easy and practical.
Feb 15, 2013 9:46PM
People on this board crying about the tax money ? Ya that sucks but yet the feds are pumping 85 billion a month into wall street banks for toxic mortgages bond markets and yet not a word about that .. LMFAO ...You people either don't know ? Or are bias
Feb 15, 2013 3:41PM

Just like the rest of Obama's "greenie" junk, the Tesla is a piece of crap. Nobody wants a car that you have to stop and spend an hour charging it back up, so you can go another  few miles.

This trash is costing the American taxpayers dearly. All of those junky, noisy almost useless windmills are $2 million dollars a pop. It will take 100 years, for them to become a very small part of America's energy. Oil, cean-burning coal and natural gas are already available. They give INSTANT eergy and don't cost us an arm and a leg.

Obama and the EPA CANNOT change the Earth's climate. What a joke!

Feb 15, 2013 3:34PM
$87400.00  I might as well get a couple for the kids too.
Feb 15, 2013 1:50PM

Hard to fault the truth...Sometimes.


At least he wasn't "drum beating" the car after having problems..


I've never really seen ANY manufacture of ANY product admit responsibly or a fault...


UNTIL THEY ARE SUED....Then many times it's payment without "admission of guilt."

Feb 16, 2013 7:54PM
The reporter got Busted by the computer logs.
Feb 15, 2013 4:19PM

First of all the loan has been paid back! It is also a technology that is needed for our future independence on oil, and cleaner air. (Ecology).

It is a very expensive technology, and if the past is any kind of indicator, with time and volume it will become affordable to the masses.




Feb 15, 2013 3:50PM
Tesla have extensives logs proving NY time reporter actually lied.

Why there is no mention of it in this article ?

Feb 19, 2013 2:49PM

Whether it is envy or fear of the new, some people dislike electric cars and reasoning wih them will not change their closed minds. They are likely the same folks who made fun of hybrids as being "wimpy" and a "political statement."

I drive by these angry myopics every morning and evening as they sit in traffic and I quietly cruise by in the HOV lane in my electric car. Victory is mine. Sometimes I honk my tinny Nissan Leaf horn at their stationery vehicles just to further remind them of the inevirable rise of the superior electric car.

The NY Times is the equivalent of my old 1982 Ford Mustang II. Once powerful and respected and now a crumbling icon of what it once was.

Nov 15, 2013 5:33PM
Only thing more annoying than apple fanbois fans is tesla fanbois. These brain dead bootlickers hate religion so they worship corporations instead
Oct 25, 2013 1:40PM
Taxpayers paying for a billionaire to make cars only rich people and celebrities can afford. Musk gets richer and Taxpayers get poorer that's the Obama way.
Feb 21, 2013 5:04PM

If I had a choice and the money, I would be driving the S with their best battery pack, giving me about 260 miles per charge / $72,400.00 . That having been said, I have friends that have purchased the Leaf, and they do suffer from range anxiety even though they went into the purchase with their eyes wide open. We live in the country, and constant attention  to the range is part of the deal.

 Enter the Volt, with it's range extending technology, and a case in point: man buys Volt and uses it for a one way 25 mile commute, and charges the thing at work ... sometimes.

After his first 3200 miles, he had a total fuel bill of $38.00

 Cadillac it putting a luxury version of the Volt into production this year and It is a beautiful looking ride, with the same range extending virtues. With the range extending car, buyers have a higher level of confidence in their ride. A lot of that turns out to be psychological. No harm, no foul :D

 If range extending technology becomes the mandatory minium  power plant configuration by the end of the decade, I believe we cut our carbon foot print in half. I wouldn't be surprised if the car manufacturers do this with out prescription.  

 Had it not been for Tesla would Nissan have jumped in with both feet with the Leaf? Had it not been for the Leaf,  would all the major car manufacturers entered this market as they have. The Volt approach buys us some time in regards to battery science which goes to "cost".

 This article or sound bite is disrespectful to Tesla, by misquoting the price. The in town version of the Tesla S that they insist on reporting on is not on the tour, and the price of the in town version (40 KWh battery) is $52,400.00 NOT a $100,000.00

 So, how is it that most of the supporters of Tesla are dumped into the controversial section of the comments?  



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